By Nathan Harden for Real Clear Politics
A new survey suggests that younger parents may not share the same values or preferences for civics education as their older peers. Nine in ten Americans agree that teaching children about our nation’s founding principles is “very important,” according to a poll conducted by RealClear Opinion Research and funded by the Jack Miller Center.
But seven out of ten schools don’t think they’re doing it well.
The poll was conducted in November and included responses from more than a thousand voters on topics related to education, civics instruction and the American establishment.
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As my colleague, RealClearPolitics reporter Phil Wegman first reported, their answers revealed that both Republicans and Democrats value civics education. Contrary to how it’s portrayed in the news cycle, civics education isn’t just a right-wing concern.
However, there were some non-partisan differences. Democrats show more confidence in the public school system to deliver what children need to know about America’s founding, while Republicans are more likely to see private school or homeschooling as a better way to get the job done. Republicans are more likely to say they believe schools are promoting a partisan political agenda and that their children are not free to express their ideas at school.
But the most striking differences were not partisan. Instead, they emerged when young parents’ responses were compared to older parents.
“What emotion do you believe your children will feel when they see the American flag?” To the question. Most parents responded positively. “Pride” and “gratitude” together accounted for more than 63% of responses, with 5.8% saying they were “disgusted” or “disgusted” when they saw the flag.
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Overall, about 30% said their children felt “indifference” when they saw the flag. But that number was much higher when you considered younger parents as a group. 52.6% of parents aged 18-24 said their children are indifferent to the flag. For parents aged 25-34, that number is 41.6%.
Let’s call it the civic education age gap. And what the survey asks parents specifically His children Think about the flag The data from the survey’s additional questions suggests that younger parents may share some indifference about America in general.
When asked how to portray flawed figures of America’s founding, overall, 92.5% of respondents said public schools should “portray historical figures honestly, with the understanding that we can teach a person’s accomplishments even if their views don’t align with today’s values.”
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Only 7.5% of all respondents believe that “if the views of historical figures are incompatible with today’s values, we should minimize or avoid teaching about their historical achievements.” To this question, the responses of young parents aged 18-24 differed slightly from the average parent—9.8% of them believe that we should minimize the achievements of problematic historical figures or avoid teaching about them altogether. For parents aged 35-34, that number was 8%.
The context of this survey, of course, is our culture’s ongoing debate about how to teach children about the impact of racism and slavery on our country and what those things mean to our national identity. Disagreement over “Is America good?” It can boil down to the question. Thomas Jefferson is a prime example.
He was a racist slave owner, although he expressed ideas that created a new form of political freedom, and his words, “We hold these truths that all men are created equal,” would one day be uttered by Martin Luther. King in defense of civil rights for the descendants of those slaves.
At a recent event in Washington, DC discussing the survey results, education and civil rights activist Bob Woodsen spoke about the importance of allowing for “redemption” as we consider our flawed Founding Fathers and our national identity. “We can be honest about our history without being romantic,” said Hans Zeiger, president of the Jack Miller Center.
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When asked what aspects of civics education should be a priority, more than 70% of parents said “teaching students the basic principles of American politics, such as the history and ideas behind the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.” On the other hand, about 23% said that “teaching students how to actively promote change in government” should be a priority. Among parents aged 18-24, that number was about 55%.
A majority of Americans today agree that civics education is important, and that civics education should include an honest assessment of our nation’s shortcomings and our flawed Founding Fathers. But younger parents embrace a more pessimistic view of our nation and a more activist view of the civics class. If these differences are tolerable at younger parental ages, one wonders what the age gap of citizens implies. One wonders what would happen to our nation if young parents and their children were not allowed any room for emancipation.
Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.
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